Well, I got lost again

Saturday, December 3, 2016

This is an odd time of year for a landscape photographer, and I'm no different in that respect.  The bright colors of Autumn are gone, the lush green of Summer has long since expired, and we are waiting on Spring to come.  Many landscape photographers will shelve their cameras until the new growth starts, but that is where I differ.  Winter is an interesting time for me photographically speaking.  I tend to stick close to home and work on my barns and old cars, and will occasionally venture out for waterfalls when the weather is right.  Well, I'm really wanting to do some waterfall photography right now, but the water tables are still too low for what I am really after.  That leaves driving around and trying to locate some interesting old cars, or barns.  This is hardly an efficient use of time as a photographer since only a small fraction of the time spent is actually making pictures.  But in lieu of having a subject in mind, scouting is the only viable option.

Today, I was looking at the weather, which was forecasting mostly sunny skies all day.  This was not ideal, and the threat of rain and clouds tomorrow sounded much better.  However, when I woke up, I saw an amazing sunrise which wasn't what I was expecting based on the weather report.  Well, I didn't get a chance to photograph the sunrise, but I did start looking at the sky which was pretty much consistently more cloudy than I had been lead to believe.  The clouds never really cleared, but there was still some very good light to work with.  It was too much light for intimate landscape work, but was pretty good for doing the rustic scenes...so that was what I set out to do.

My plan was to putter around in Davidson County for a bit and then ultimately head out to Pilot Mountain to catch a sunset.  I went by a barn in Forsyth County that I had photographed before, but it showed no character today.  I went down into Davidson County to check out an old Apache truck I had photographed before, but it was gone.  Hmmm, I wasn't really doing all that well so far.

I kept on driving, and ended up in Randolph County near Uwharrie which I had never been before.  i have to say, there is a lot of great stuff out there to photograph, but none of it was jumping out at me today.  It was all just so blah in the current conditions.  I got out on a few old buildings, and for one reason or another decided against setting the camera up.  I got so lost since I was proceeding without GPS going, and was just turning randomly at intersections.  All I knew was I was South and East away from home, beyond that I had no idea where I was.  I even found a few unpaved roads which were kind of fun to explore in their own right.  I just wished I was able to find that right scene that spoke to me.

One of the intersections that I came to held a little surprise for me.  After going miles without seeing much at all, I looked to the right (actually planning on turning left), and saw a tin roof and a silo.  It also appeared to be set off away from surrounding clutter.  This could be it.  I pulled the truck off of the road, and was happy that I had the ground clearance that I did considering the ditch I was parked on.  I went ahead and grabbed the bag and the tripod from the cab and started to walk closer to the barn.  I parked well away since I wasn't sure where my composition would be, and I didn't want my truck in the picture.  As I got closer, I could see that there was a wooden fence that I wasn't too happy with at first.  I could deal with the barbed wire a little bit better than a large wooden slatted fence.

As I got even closer, I found that the fence just had a small section facing the road, and the rest went to the barn.  The barn was actually opened up from the road with no barriers to face.  This would be fun since I could get up close and personal with the barn.  However, the more I tried to get in close, the less appealing the pictures were.  The further back, the more unbalanced they were with the fence on the right side of the frame.  I also didn't like the full on frontal look of the barn.  I tried to move over to the right and get the fence in the frame, but it became too jumbled, and I was unable to get enough altitude on the camera to keep it from blocking key elements on the face of the barn.  I seemed to be an an impasse with compositions.  I was using my 24-70mm, and found that the focal lengths were just fine, but my location wasn't quite right.

Well, I decided to throw caution to the wind and set up square in the middle of the road.  On the double yellow line to be exact.  Yeah, I'm doing exactly what my Mother told me not to do, and what Toni would be yelling at me for doing, but after spending 17 years in a job where I've walked in the middle of the highway at rush hour, I somehow felt pretty comfortable doing this.  I composed a shot, which I really liked, and I dialed in the intensifying polarizer to bring out the color in the scene, set my exposure, and tripped the shutter.

Guarded and Weathered
This was the shot I was looking for!  The fence didn't interfere with the face of the barn, I got a leading line that made sense in the scene, and got a nice quarter view of the barn instead of a static front view.  I even got a nice balance with the bare trees on either side of the frame.  I moved the camera around a few times, and got out of the way of approaching cars a couple of times before figuring that I had the shot that I wanted.  The sun was starting to dip behind the clouds, and it was looking like I was running out of light for this scene, so I went back to the truck and broke everything down.

I ended up with 27 frames that I shot of this old barn.  In that time, I had tried about 20 individual compositions to get everything to line up just right.  I was probably there for about 35 minutes or so as the light was falling.  Once I left there, I hunted for a good location for a sunset, but found that hunt to be a moot point since the clouds were building so fast that there was not going to be any color in the sky to worry with.  I pulled out the GPS and told it to take me home.  I wasn't upset that I missed Pilot Mountain since the color and sky that I was hoping for didn't happen.

Once I started to edit the pictures, I found that most of them were not that good.  The sky wasn't right in most, the fence was in the way in others, and the composition boring in several.  There were about four pictures which really caught my eye.  Three of them were shot from the street, and the fourth was shot from the barbed wire, but lacked a strong leading line since the wooden fence exited to the left of the frame.  When it came down to it, there was a single picture that really jumped out at me.

The leading line was nearly perfect thanks to the "L" shape of the fence.  The barbed wire became insignificant to the composition.  The wooden fence skirted right under the barn, and strait to the silo.  The sky had a nice contrast to it, and nice blue tones thanks to the polarizer.  I was really happy with how this one turned out, and thanks to this one image, my driving all afternoon was well worth it.

Guarded and Weathered in B&W
Since a good many of my Winter photographs are shot with monochrome in mind, I had a pretty good idea that this would convert nicely to Black and White.  I moved it from Lightroom into Photoshop where I did the conversion.  After playing with some of the color channels, I had a really nice base for the conversion.  I tweaked some of the curves for the final presentation, which resulted in a very nice Black and White image.

Honestly, I'm not sure which I like better between the two pictures.  I'm always a fan of color photography, and like the deep saturated hues.  However, a dramatic sky is always made more appealing in monochrome.  The subject matter also lends itself to a more rudimentary presentation.  The way I see it, I have two different versions of the same image that stand equally well on their own, and that is how I will represent them in the gallery.


  1. You are lucky you didn't NOT get hit!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank goodness!!!

    1. Oops, I told on myself didn't I? Traffic was very light, and I had lots of warning before a car got close. I was safe, but would have been safer if my photo wench was along for the ride.

  2. Haha, Love it....Yeah my husband would be having a fit if I did that too. I would stop for that scene wherever it was. Most were back road driving so not a lot of heavy traffic but that occassional vehicle that would suddenly appear, lol. I like the way you describe what you set out to do-Sounds just like what I would do! I haven't done much at all, lately. Need new or revisit past scenes, if I could even remember where half were, no gps, i usually have a sense-well I turned this way and should be going that way and will end up there, wherever that was. It worked for me, except once which I just simple didnt have it that day. I always figured if you have tankful of gas there's no such thing as getting lost. Happy shooting, a joy to read your adventures!

    1. Hey Juanita! I imagine that our experience isn't all that uncommon among photographers. It seems that the right composition is usually in the most inconvenient place, but those who dare to be there, are the ones that get the shot. I've had that same kind of creative block before, and it is no fun. What I have started doing, is reshooting the places I've been, but I get there using a different route so I am seeing new places. If I can't recall where I have been before, I will just go out to the area where I remember finding it, and try to find it again. Never know what you will find doing that. Also, shoot the old places in different ways. I'm really starting to get into the long exposure shots with the moving clouds, and I'm finding just changing out my primary lens choice creates a whole new dynamic in the field. It becomes new again!